tv [untitled] October 1, 2010 4:00am-4:30am PST
80 years for psychiatry and family therapy to even say, maybe this is important. so by the time you get to be adults, often you are strangers, you are foreigners. there is a national statistic about 45 to 50 percent of us have challenged relationships that you have, you know, borderline things, 10 percent of people don't speak to their siblings at all. twelve percent are what my brother and i were. you would brace yourself to be with your, i would brace myself, my brother would start
his tirades and all of these shadow issues. >> as you were hearing the stories of the people you would hear well, all of this academic and intellectual grounding for sibling relationships, then what happened? >> it was a trigger, people would say what are you working on? i would say the story about my brother and me. people would tell me about their stories. we are like minnows swimming in the well of childhood as brothers and sisters. one of the great questions for
many of us is why can't we see our brother or sister as others see them? there was carl brenner, fantastic apple guy, expert on opera, he was an alpha romantic figure, flew a plane, looked like harrison ford, many lady friends, wine lover connoisseur. why did i think of him as this difficult person and why did he see me as this is his perception, which of course, i am perfectly willing to say that is me, put the mirror up. miss know it all, expert, his
perception was that little sister always trying to get attention. this is pathetic, we'd get together and fight over everything. it was like we were back fighting in the backseat of the car. first time i went to the apple orchards, we had a huge fight about how to pick his fruit. i was bruising the apple. you are bruising my fruit. it was pathetic. you get stuck in that role playing because you are stamped with children with the roles. >> the character we see in this thing most of the time is pretty objectively difficult, not just somebody who is always irritated at his sister, but somebody mean, who has made his mother sad and angry and
reaction to most things is sour and hostile. how much of that did you end up feeling was you and the lens you were looking at and how much was carl? >> a great deal of it. the book is written as a drama between a brother and sister. it is a double family story of how skewed and blind our perceptions. it is written in dramatic themes. it takes place from the tormented younger sister's view. one of the most challenging aspects and excruciating painful for me writing apples and oranges and say what is my responsibility here? how can i put this on the page?
how i drove my brother crazy. >> one of the things i want to ask you about, your books, you are known as an investigative reporter, long complex narratives involving dramas and situations. i am curious to know what was hardest about memoir with somebody living their life as a working journalist? let me preface it a little bit with someone who has similar tendency. this is from 2005. i would like it if you would read from here. >> perfect. yeah. this is a moment in the book
where, i am kind of flipping out writing about my brother. i am listening to tapes, because of course i have gone back to the orchards, my brother has died at a young age. i have gone back to the orchards to do interviews, i keep doing this dancing about what it is really about. i am saying i am outside the event although in the middle of it. it is protection, part of the latex that is covers me. making tapes, to crack the grid that i can understand on situations that are incomprehensible. at this moment i want to change everything in me tobserver part and move into something else, the living your life part. when does that start, exactly? something else, i look into the
mirror and someone says what are you doing here? you have no right to live. >> why did you become a reporter in the first place? >> it was stamped in my dna. i was so lucky, cynthia. earlier we were talking about our shared mexican history. in my house, first of all i came from a house in san antonio, south texas of big opinions. my father was a kind of district attorney without portfolio. other jewish fathers play golf. >> this is a jewish district attorney. >> originally from mexico. his whole passion in life is corruption. the family own add discount store. that wasn't where his heart would you say.
he was running this family business and his heart was exposing theing bad guy. for a reporter it became the most fantastic training ground. at dinner my father would talk non stop, the mayor is a crook, the senator is a crook, i am going to get that guy. he would have campaigns, whistle blowers, he had stocking bag stuffers. there was an extrodinary house, lucky house, very grateful for all of that who is hilariously funny. he is holder sister, anita brenner was older, worked in the "new york times" in the
1930s. there are many pictures of anita in those family scrapbooks. unfortunately my father hated his older sister, rather than getting to have wonderful times of gertrudestein in mexico, all i heard was she is a monster. they didn't speak. the idea of her, the largeness of her loomed large in the house. >> so you start out, you become a writer for all of these reasons and you are someone who compulsively takes notes and packages what you see in story form, as you decide you are going to climb into your own
life and own family story, how did you figure out what was true? >> that was a tough one. first of all, being a reporter, so often it is about a way with of finding our own stories and the stories we write about. one of the aspects so interesting for so many of us, if you are an introverted extrovert or shy person or rather hidden asking questions is a great way to hide. if you are writing a memoir, it makes you scour because you care about being accurate. this was complicated because i worried about this for a long time, who was right? who was wrong? i had my hyperrational reporter's hat on. then i began to realize, it doesn't matter. part of the great challenge of writing in a personal way is saying this is my story.
it is just what is right for me. that was interesting. i was very lucky in that, the brenners are a family of letter writers. everyone had a typewriter in the era before computers and bang away at typewriters in the middle of the night as children and my father and mother, long, long letters. anita brenner turned out to be the same kind of obsessive letter-writer pack right. all of her letters were in the university of texas, the great archives of the world. i was able to go on a traumatic day and see she had neatly kept hundreds of letters that my father and family wrote to each
other in the 20s. i saw patterns, the anger that had gone on 60 years before i was on the planet that became stamped on us. it became our dna. >> anything that helped you get insight as to why so much of your brother's anger and passion into what you regarded as coo coo politics? >> that is an interesting question. it is hard. what i have learned is, i have written biographies, bingham family of louisville. we take a letter of a piece of evidence, there is a ah-huh,
this anger daughter wrote a letter to her father. my grandfather working away in san antonio then adored this daughter, book dedicated to him. she was then gone up to new york and going to school at columbia. he wrote her a furious letter. >> your grandfather? >> yes. you have broken your promise and haven't been putting yourself full time, although the book would you say in the front of "new york times". he pulled the carpet on her. that kind of thing. you could leap on that and say, well that says it all, doesn't it? one of the things i learned
about writing about family is there aren't answers to so many questions. it is a mistake in a family to think every question has an answer. one of the questions i had going into the book was, do we pass sibling relationships down? was the fact that my father had such a difficult relationship with his older sister, was that the thing? going into writing this book i would say there it is, it is passed down. the fact is my brother and i were with able to get passed this. my brother would say you have so many damned theories, just go forward, live your life. don't be with so obsessed with the passed. he turned out to be a guru
figure for me. sometimes you don't get to understand everything. >> what turned, finally? i mean he is on some levels, cranky, right up until the last day, so what changed for you and would this have happened if he didn't have a life threatening illness crisis? >> i have often asked that. i don't know what the answer to that is. what changed that is so profound and fundamental and coming over on the plane, i wrote 5 points that i thought was that worked for me in transforming. many people have said to me, how do we make it better with a sibling? what changed for us was the first thing that happened is, this is now my rule 1, take
action. i flew out to the orchards, i panicked after 9/11. i would never get this better. what was i going to do? like everyone in new york and america, we were so traumatized with 9/11. i said to my husband, i am going to go out to the orchards. >> this is before you knew he was sick? >> i knew. he was still going full speed and no one would have known he was sick. he wasn't really sick, he just had his medical condition. i said i am going to go surprise him. i spent 2 days. >> simply because the world is coming to an end? >> i felt compelled. it was the moment i knew i had to turn the page. you just know. there is something that happens to you, i am going to turn the
page. i was panicked. i was surprising him, he would have said no, i am too busy, i don't want you here. i spent a day running all over new york city trying not to freak out about the sirens buying flannel clothes, the right things for the orchard. this is ridiculous, i wear what i always wear, black. >> you are wearing a black cashmere turtle neck to the orchard? you can't do that. on the airplane, i am trying to learn the apple business. i have my files like a reporter. i realize i am treating my brother as if he was a source.
i just wanted him to like me. i wanted to impress him. i had to do that little sister thing. the first rule was, put yourself into their world. the second part of this was understand how difficult it is and don't wait for a crisis, because the fact is, if you have this strange relationship with a sibling, you are already in kind of a crisis. you may not recognize it and maybe comfortable and okay with it, but it isn't perfect. the best predictor of happiness and long term happiness is to have good relationship s with your family and friends. the 3rd aspect is try to see your sibling as they are not as you would like them to be.
going to the apple country was huge for me. again, i am embarrassed to say, 15 years i had never been once with. this is a lunatic thing my brother is doing with these apples. when i sailed down this huge area of fruit country, imagine after 9/11, apple country at harvest, thousands of acreage, beautiful skies. i got tears. it was like america the beautiful. it was so rural. it was such a different world for me. the first sighting of my brother. he didn't know i was coming was at the packing house. i remember seeing him, millions of apples coming down the flumes. my brother was looking at every single piece of fruit to be sure it was shipped correctly. he was to tender. i was seeing him from a long
shot. i thought oh my god, all he needs is a sweater, he'd look just like are mr. rogers. i began to realize i didn't get it. that was the beginning. then i began bombing him with questions about apples and fruit. there was one moment that did change things in my perception, which is we were walking one day, i worked the fields and packing house routine, 5:00 a.m. routine. we were walking at dawn with the pickers who were all working, my brother was walking ahead of me. i saw all the shades of green, i was able to get my own ego out of the way. i thought he is amazing. this brother of mine is amazing. he has built up something
astonishing here. it was almost like he was no longer invisible to me. i could begin to see him. then when i watched him walking ahead of me, i realized he has the same gape i do. we are probably so much more alike than we ever allowed ourselves to think. that was a beginning moment for me. >> one of the narratives that runs through this book, particularly as he becomes more sick in the last part of it, you are the relentless, you are going to be okay, there is going to be hope, if i make enough contacts, i'll fix this. he is the almost unfailing despite his occasional request to you to help voice of it is not going to get better, deal with it, what did you learn
over the course of that thing about the terrible tension between hope and reality acceptance when you are close to someone who has a terminal illness? >> that is such a hard question because the fact is they are so you. you are looking at yourself. it is impossible when your brother, sister, and 2 and a half years apart. i couldn't give what he was going through a reality. i couldn't see it for what with it was. it was catastrophic. now that i had my brother, i was desperate not to lose him. >> you hadn't had him until this. >> we had that cotten batting
between us. we had a fierce attachment, when you are that locked together in this kind of angry, very strong bond, underneath that is the bond and the real attachment. so detachment and saying this is about him was impossible. part of that relentless cheer leading was my own failure was to say this is real and this is happening. we always think we can find a solution to everything and we can't. >> did he teach you that? >> yes. that we sometimes things we can't understand. >> knowing what you know now about how it was all going to play out, would you have done anything differently in the way
of ongoing, this will be okay, we'll make this okay, we'll try everything kind of cheer leading? >> i don't think, i would have liked to say i would have been a more buddhist embracing nature. my nature is to be with that younger sister. i think i was trying to mirror what thought he needed. maybe silence is the way to go. >> this is an odd question, when you said i finally have a
brother soon i am going to lose him. why do we love our siblings? >> no one with loves us better. william james often wrote about the core of self. that core of self is hidden from our parents. we hide from our parents but we don't from our siblings, they know every aspect of us. it is why they can drive us crazy, it is why when we have a problem, our impulse is to want our brother or sister right next to us. no one with could be closer. there is that pull. that pull is so powerful. it was a love story, always. >> do you think you knew that before you started writing this?
>> i knew i had to be as close to my brother as i could possibly be. i am sure that pull is part of it. >> you have a daughter and stepson as well? >> i have 1 daughter and 1 stepson who i am close to. >> has this changed how you are around them as well? >> absolutely. my daughter casey has a half brother she is very close to. i say to all of them, you are a team. you have each other through life. you are a team. you do a lot of things together as the 2 families, very, very close. >> this seems like a good
moment to open up any question that is you all may want to ask about the writing process, about siblings, anything else. > is there something you could read to us from the book that you would feel that we wouldn't understand unless you read it? >> you have any ideas? >> it is a real sort of testish. she has put it together like a quilt. i would say the scene that you described where you are arriving and first see him in the apple orchard, do you remember exactly where that is? >> i'll page through it and see where it is. i might do a short theme where i describe what he looks like
and this perfect them. >> if you want to revert to your texas voice. >> the last time i saw my brother, we had an immense fight. it was in his house in san antonio, i am describing, the book opens with this fight. this is sort of a picture of my brother at this exact moment. there are always apples around him, women, too. apple pie, big sheik antique bowls of wooden apples, read and golden, apples pencils, produce framed on the library wall, texas vegetables from the rio grand empire.
i am an american first, then a texan he would say not understanding he sounded like auggi march. the clues are there, i later realized. a man's fate is his character. you always have to show off and tell us what you know, carl said. i'll be in washington next week i say. i have an interview, i have to close of peace. you promised me, you said you would stay away from washington state. you sat right here and said you would not go to the cascades. he yells as loudly as i have ever heard him. washington, d.c. i shout back. i have the trait as well. [laughter].